What various people said the most fundamental part of the world was - the bottleneck through which the rest of reality flows. (Or does now, after their work done unbunged it.)
- ARISTOTLE: Begin with the first causes and the principles of things.
"what is being qua being?" (metaphysical priority).
- DESCARTES: Begin with yourself, with only the most evident things.
"what is known?" (epistemic priority)
- KANT: Begin with the interface of active subject & world:
"how do we have knowledge"? (apperceptive priority)
- RUSSELL: Begin at the most basic facts:
"what are the real átomos?" (logical priority)
- HUSSERL: Begin with the universal impression of consciousness:
"what does the a priori shape of our experience say about the objective?" (phenomenological priority)
- HEIDEGGER: Begin with the meaning of Being:
"why something rather than Nothing?" (fundamental-ontological priority)
- LEVINAS: Begin with the Other:
"have I a right to be, given this Other?" (ethical priority)
- BECKETT: "Don't begin." (No attempt.)
- PUTNAM: Begin in medias res.*
- MADDY: Skip first philosophy altogether.**
* It is as if they wanted to see ethics as a noble statue standing at the top of a single pillar. My image is rather different. My image would be a table with many legs. We all know that a table with many legs wobbles when the floor on which it stands is not even, but such a table is very hard to turn over, and that is how I see ethics…- Putnam
** Modern science … has refused to recognize the authority of the philosopher who claims to know the truth from intuition, from insight into a world of ideas or into the nature of reason or the principles of being, or from whatever super-empirical source. There is no separate entrance to truth for philosophers.- Reichenbach (& Maddy)
(Yes, it amuses me to say "Russell" and "Husserl" alternately.)